UK banks RBS, Lloyds offer help to coronavirus-hit customers

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Two of Britain’s biggest banks, RBS (RBS.L) and Lloyds (LLOY.L), are offering support to customers affected by the coronavirus outbreak as it spreads in the country.

State-backed RBS said on Tuesday that affected borrowers would be able to defer mortgage and loan repayments by up to three months, as part of its policy of supporting customers who suffer financial hardship from unexpected events.

It will also waive early closure charges on fixed savings accounts and offer refunds on credit card cash advance fees so customers can access cash without penalty.

Its announcement comes a day after NatWest, part of RBS, announced measures to help small firms suffering cash flow or supply chain problems due to the health crisis.

Britain’s biggest domestic bank, Lloyds, also announced support for business customers on Tuesday, offering relief on fees and loan repayments to some small firms hit by the virus.

Lloyds said it would offer 2 billion pounds of finance with no fees to affected small firms that have a turnover of up to 25 million pounds. The funding is part of its expected 18 billion pounds of business lending this year.

Neither RBS nor Lloyds defined exactly how customers would have to be affected by the virus to receive help. There have been 321 cases and five deaths in Britain so far.

Lloyds itself has been disrupted, shutting a call centre in Northern Ireland that employs 1,000 people after a member of staff tested positive for the virus.

Some businesses have had to shut offices and ask employees to work from home, while cross-border supply chains have also been disrupted.

RBS’s move to extend support to personal customers comes as Italy’s deputy economy minister said payments on mortgages could be suspended across the country, where the most serious outbreak in Europe continues to unfold.

Lloyds said its managers had spoken to more than 10,000 small and medium-sized enterprises about the outbreak, but said the damage on businesses so far had been minimal.

It said any loan repayment holidays would be offered subject to individual agreements.

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